Looking Around Corners

The famed business leader Jack Welch passed away this year.

I’m honored to have met him when he spoke at several of FranklinCovey’s Leadership Symposiums. So many lessons to learn from his tenure as CEO at General Electric, including what to do and perhaps not to do as leaders. Welcome to the postmortem on all our legacies.

One of the insights I’ve internalized from Jack is the concept he popularized: “looking around corners.” In addition to the multiple keynote speeches he delivered for FranklinCovey, I also was privileged to see him speak at the World Business Forum. Invariably when he would list leadership competencies, he most valued the skill of anticipating what’s next—the idea that great leaders possess the skill of metaphorically anticipating what’s on the horizon and can look around corners. For the fifteen years he spoke and coached audiences after his storied career at GE, Jack spoke continually about this skill of agility and nimbleness. Let’s explore how “looking around corners” might show up in your career.

Pose these questions to yourself and your team:

  • Think back on past trends in your industry. Did you see them coming or were you taken by surprise? Be honest with yourself—there’s a lot to learn from this self-awareness.
  • When you’ve accurately identified a coming concept or reality, how did you do it? Have you formalized a process to “skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been,” an idea attributed to the hockey great Wayne Gretzky?
  • What are the pucks in your professional life and are you headed toward them? For that matter, do you even know what the future “pucks” are?
  • Could everyone’s “skates” be laced up and tightened if you accessed more resources like podcasts, virtual or in-person conferences, books, trade publications, etc.? Many of us are investing in our team’s technical and interpersonal skills, but are you also investing in their industry expertise and knowledge about the future?
  • The periscope is the eye of the submarine. What’s your version of a periscope? Do you have any tools or processes in place to help you look around corners? Do you even know which tools are available given the evergreen nature of their design? Perhaps appoint a member of your team to manage the periscope and empower them to educate you and your colleagues each quarter.
  • Translate these same questions and exercises into your personal life. What’s on the horizon for you and your family? If you were to slow down a bit, climb a metaphorical ladder, and get above the clouds, might you head off some brewing storms? Even a few quiet minutes weekly of thinking about brewing storms or calm waters ahead might bring you great comfort and minimize anxiety and conflict.

Gather your team (or family) together and pose the question: “What do we think is next, how do we know, and what are we doing about it”? As the leader, remember, your role is not to be the smartest person in the room (or kitchen). To quote our friend, business partner, and bestselling author of Multipliers Liz Wiseman, don’t be the genius, but rather the genius maker of others.

If you believe that your role is to ignite the genius in others, what are you doing to start the ignition?

Listen like a leader with these 9 tips to drive powerful conversations - powered by The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People®.

About the Author

Scott Miller

Scott Miller is a 25-year associate of FranklinCovey and serves as Senior Advisor, Thought Leadership. Scott hosts the world’s largest and fastest-growing podcast/newsletter devoted to leadership development, On Leadership. Additionally, Scott is the author of the multi-week Amazon #1 New Releases, Master Mentors: 30 Transformative Insights From Our Greatest Minds, Management Mess to Leadership Success: 30 Challenges to Become the Leader You Would Follow, and the Wall Street Journal bestseller, Everyone Deserves a Great Manager: The 6 Critical Practices for Leading a Team. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with his wife and three sons.

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